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TV show spotlights public artwork at Brown and RISD

Previously featuring panel discussions, ArtRI series now focuses on often-overlooked public works

ArtRI’s “In Plain Sight: Art in Unexpected Places” series will air a new episode Thursday on Rhode Island PBS highlighting public artworks on the campuses of Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design. Throughout the half-hour episode, Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the David Winton Bell Gallery, provides a tour through the grounds as she describes works by artists including Jenny Holzer, Diane Samuels, Sarah Oppenheimer and Henry Moore.

When ArtRI premiered in 2012, it primarily featured panel dicussions with artists. But two years later, the show’s creators decided to move ArtRI out of the gallery and into the community to feature public artworks in Rhode Island, said Richard Goulis, director of the series. With the goal of “highlighting art that is equally accessible, but often overlooked,” they filmed Conklin’s tour through the early summer of 2013, said Victoria Veh, the show’s creative director.

Works featured on the program include Moore’s 1963 “Reclining Figure No. 2 - Bridge Prop” on the Main Green, Samuels’ 2006 “Lines of Sight” in Sidney Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Nina Katchadourian’s ’89 2010 “Advice from a Former Student” in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center and Larry Kirkland’s 2011 “Intertwine” in the Medical Education Building.

The national and international significance of artists in the University and RISD collections are particularly impressive, Veh said. She cited the Moore work, which he kept as a prized possession in his backyard until arrangements were made for its donation, she added.

Many of the artists in the collection are world-renowned, Goulis said. The University “has shown this commitment to having public art that is available to everybody, not just students.”

Though Brown features many public artworks on campus, Veh said many people unaffiliated with their local university community believe it is necessary to have official business on a college campus in order to visit its grounds. This belief has prevented some from seeing university art collections, he added.

Increased accessibility has been a principal motivation for the series. Joseph Chazan, executive producer and professor emeritus of medicine at Alpert Medical School, said he aims to “expose people in Rhode Island to some of the wonders that exist here.”

For Conklin, a member of the University’s Committee on Public Art, college campuses’ public art plays a role distinct from that of works in university galleries. Public artwork “should enliven the campus” and “be a moment of aesthetic enjoyment,” she said.

But viewing public art is also “an enriching process” for the mind, Goulis said.

Chazan said “it’s not either/or” between the arts and sciences. As a practicing physician and professor at the Med School, Chazen possesses a heavily scientific academic background. But for about 40 years, he has also been committed to the arts in Rhode Island because both fields share a “search for excellence” and value “being creative,” he said. The arts employ qualities that Chazan “tries to emulate in my own profession,” he said.

Upcoming works that will be featured on campus include a memorial by artist Martin Puryear acknowledging the University’s historical ties to the slave trade as well as a water table by Maya Lin, Conklin said.

The episode premieres at 8 p.m. tonight on Rhode Island PBS.



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